Best Substitutes for Paprika

What Should You Know About Paprika? As some of you might have known, paprika is a popular ingredient to add a smoky or sweet flavor to your dish. Besides, you can also take the paprika to garnish your food with an impressively bright red color. Some paprika types offer a slightly spicy flavor, combing with a typically warm aroma. To make paprika, people dry and ground red peppers thoroughly. Concerning its origination, paprika comes from the Capsicum annuum varietals, similar to the chili peppers. However, the paprika’s flavor tends to be milder, and its flesh is thinner than its cousin. There are many types of paprika, leading to various flavors, mainly depending on the region’s make it. Primarily, you might often see the paprika made in Hungary and Spain. The difference lies in the way you pick up peppers and the process of doing it. Hence, once picking up the paprika substitute, keep in mind to notice which kind of flavor you want, sweetness, smokiness, mildness, or spiciness.

7 Ways to Substitutes For Paprika With Kitchen Staples

There are eight types of paprika substitutes that you should remember. They include tomato juice, hot sauce, red chili flakes, crushed black peppercorns, chipotle powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, Aleppo pepper powder.

1. Tomato Juice

Suppose you are seeking one of the best liquid replacements for sweet paprika; think about tomato juice would help. The highest benefit of tomato juice might be its light sweetness. On the other hand, it does not offer a similar smokey taste and the vibrant red hue as the paprika. The spiciness also lacks in the ingredient. Suppose you want to add extra smokiness or heat; think about sprinkling a little cayenne pepper or chili powder into the food. Concerning its usage, tomato juice can replace the paprika well in dishes that combine the Capsicum annuum product with water such as stews, soups, braises, etc. Some do not like the high amount of water included in the juice. Then, I suggest using tomato paste. It has a similar taste to the juice version but offers a thicker texture. In that case, adding a little pepper to create the smokey flavor would help.

2. Hot Sauce

The second great substitute for paprika is hot sauce, a common ingredient you can search for in any grocery store. As a kind of chili sauce, hot sauce is sweet, smokey, and light heat. The spice contains a light vinegar tang, making it a little sour than other options. Many dishes can pair well with hot sauce, namely rubs, stews, braises, marinades, soups, roasts,  etc. Bear in mind to test the ingredient’s taste by slowly adding it to your dish. Stop when you find happiness with your dish’s flavor.

3. Red Chili Flakes

The next dried peppers that can substitute for paprika are red chili flakes. Those flakes offer a chunky and coarse texture, which is slightly different from the thoroughly ground paprika. By contrast, the ingredient features a similarly spicy flavor and red color. Keep in mind that you should reduce the number of red chili flakes to balance your food’s flavor. Concerning its usage, you can use the flakes to go up the heat of your hummus or sauce by adding them with other ingredients in the food processor. That helps smooth the mixture as well. However, suppose you are not sure the exact quantity of the flakes; try to sprinkle them as the last ingredient—no need to worry about the fragments and seeds appearing in the dish. You hardly can see them after cooking. Casseroles, soups, dry rubs, and marinades are some examples you perfectly match with red chili flakes.

4. Crushed Black Peppercorns

I like using crushed black peppercorns as great substitutes for sweet paprika due to their lightly smokey flavor and notable spiciness. On the other hand, the black peppercorns feature a different color to the paprika. Hence, suppose you want to add a new flavor layer into your food; using this crushed ingredient would help. There are many ways to have crushed black peppercorns in your pantry. Directly purchasing the crushed version in a grocery store would save more time. Otherwise, you can use a pepper mill to break the full versions. Another solution is to take a rolling pin and crush the black peppercorns thoroughly. Keep in mind to use a plastic bag to hold the ingredient. Concerning its usage, black peppers can replace paprika in many cases, except tomato-based food such as soups, sauces, and others. That might demolish the taste of your dish at the end.

5. Chipotle Powder

Among many choices, the chipotle powder is my fifth recommendation if you prefer a product from chipotle peppers. It is made by finely grinding and drying the chipotle peppers. The substitute offers a similarly sweet taste and a crimson color as the paprika. On the other hand, the chipotle powder might offer more heat than you expect. Then, reduce the amount of chipotle powder if you dislike the heat. Moreover, adding a few more sugar to increase the mildly sweet taste to duplicate the sweet paprika.

6. Chili Powder

Both chili peppers and paprika belong to the same varietals; the chili powder can be an excellent replacement for the paprika powder. It offers the same flavor, but it also features a similar hue to paprika. Especially, its smokey and mildly sweet taste is expected to liven up your dishes and give them a prominently red hue. Any dish that calls for the paprika can pair well with the chili powder, ranging from stews, soups, marinades, vegetables, roasts, and others. Using a 1:1 ratio of the paprika to the chili powder would bring you a perfect recipe.

7. Cayenne Pepper

You can use cayenne pepper as a suitable replacement for sweet paprika. Of course, suppose you do not like the high heat level in the cayenne pepper; you can tone the flavor down. Reducing the amount of spice is one way. Alternatively, you can add a little sugar to the dish to create an extra subtle taste. Concerning its usage, chefs often use cayenne pepper for sweet, savory, or spicy dishes. For example, you can take advantage of the ingredient in desserts, vegetables, marinades, casseroles, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make paprika by yourself?

To make the paprika at home, you need to prepare a couple of chili peppers to focus on the heat or the red bell peppers if you prefer the mild seasoning. Purchase from ten to fifteen peppers to have a jar of paprika. Then, you dry, smoke, and grin the peppers until you have the desired result. Put them into a jar and preserve them in a cool place for more prolonged use.

Are Cajun and paprika similar?

Cajun and paprika are two different ingredients, but they share a few similar flavors. They have the same heat and warmth, albeit with unlike flavor depth. More than that, paprika is one of the main ingredients in cajun seasoning, combined with white peppers and salt.

What is Paprika Actually Made Of?


To conclude, above is a list of the best substitutes for paprika. In short, chili powder can be an excellent replacement for paprika due to its closest flavor and color. You can utilize the ingredient in any food calling for the paprika. What’s more, cayenne peppers are worth thinking about alike. They are popular and cheap at the same time.